From NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 18 No. 2, March-April 2001, p. 50
In October of 1996, our two youngest children, Daniel and Ashley, came down with chicken pox within two weeks of each other. While the illness came and went without much fuss with Daniel, three-year-old Ashley was another story. A pock near her eye became infected, and we were given an antibiotic to help fight the infection and another medication to use in case the infection began to spread. Ashley is very easygoing and was happy to take her medicine, until about the third dose. She became warm and began vomiting. Her vomiting and diarrhea continued into the night. She became lethargic and spiked a very high fever. Through it all, I cuddled her and nursed her. My milk was the only thing that she could keep down.
We continued to nurse and she seemed to rally a little the next day, keeping down popsicles and juice. But by the following day, she appeared to be in trouble! With her eyes sunken in and her lips almost vanished, we decided to take her to the doctor.
While I explained all that had gone on in the previous days, the doctor examined Ashley. The diagnosis was that she was extremely dehydrated. The doctor never batted an eye when I mentioned that the only thing Ashley tolerated was breast milk. She encouraged us to go into the hospital for rehydration and suggested we might have to spend the night, if not another day or two. Her only other comments were, "You will stay with her and please continue to breastfeed." Having the full support of our doctor about breastfeeding meant very much. It was one less obstacle to worry about.
Since she had chicken pox, we were immediately put into an isolation room at the hospital. The staff commented that it was a more private place for us to breastfeed. Nursing continuously was a source of comfort for both of us as the staff inserted an intravenous tube into Ashley's arm.
When we arrived in our room, the nurse worked to arrange the tubes attached to Ashley so that we could easily continue to nurse and cuddle. Her support of my presence with Ashley was evident when she said, "You can just climb into the bed with her. No one will say anything." For the remainder of our stay, the family practice staff was fully supportive of our breastfeeding. They commented on how much calmer Ashley appeared than other children who were hospitalized in similar situations, and they even went so far as to consider attributing it to breastfeeding.
Breastfeeding throughout this situation was a constant source of comfort. As Ashley began to recover, she was better able to talk about her fears and concerns, letting me know that nursing would help to make it better. She knew that I was there for her in all ways and that made everything all right. I firmly believe that Ashley's continued breastfeeding was what kept her from becoming a critical case. While full recovery was several weeks in coming, it was made that much easier by the fact that we were breastfeeding. It helped keep the whole situation positive. Ashley was able to talk about it calmly and clearly six months afterward. In our experience, breastfeeding our toddler was a key factor in Ashley's full recovery from a dangerous situation.
Reprinted from Nursery Notes, the Area Leaders' Letter from LLL of New Jersey, Volume 23, Issues 2 and 3 (1998).